It can be hard to switch off from work, especially if you spend some or all of your week working from home. And while thinking after hours about the projects you are excited about or the problem you must tackle is ok from time to time, it should not be an everyday habit.
If you want to reclaim your evenings and weekends, follow these steps:
- Tidy up loose ends before the end of the workday
- Prepare for the next day
- Get clarity through writing
- Speak with your manager
- Have an end-of-workday routine
- Track your time
Tidy up loose ends before the end of the workday
It is hard to switch off from work if you have a lot of incomplete tasks waiting for you on your return. Take time at the end of each workday to close out as many tasks as possible.
These are usually the smaller items, and it can be tempting to prioritise starting or progressing a bigger piece of work instead. But a complete task is one less thing for you to worry about in the evening – regardless of how big or small it is. Focus on what you can finish and then begin fresh the next day.
If you have a holiday planned, check out this guide to help switch off for more than a few days.
Prepare for the next day
If you find yourself trying to mentally map out the next day while having dinner, watching your favourite show, or even lying in bed, daily planning can help. The plan doesn’t need to be too detailed and doesn’t even need to cover the entire day.
Before switching off your laptop, plan the first two hours of the next workday and devise a plan to tackle any niggling problems or issues. You can then leave work confident that you know what action you need to take when you return.
If you are already a weekly planner, this is a great time to reassess your plan and ensure you focus on the right activity.
Get clarity through writing
If you often think about work late at night, grab a pen and paper and write down what’s keeping you up. The act of writing helps you get clear why these thoughts are lingering in your mind.
Putting your worries or questions down on paper will help you decompress from work and sleep. Review your notes the next day and decide what action you will take to prevent a repeat nightly occurrence.
Speak with your manager
If your workload or the expectations around communication keep you from switching off from work, having a conversation with your manager may help.
Before you find a slot in their diary, be clear about the outcome you are looking to achieve. For example, if it’s about a project that isn’t progressing, you may want to know the best way to deal with this situation and what escalation support is available. Or, if your boss regularly sends emails at the end of the working day, you might be looking to clarify the response times.
Knowing the purpose of the conversation will help prevent it from being sidetracked by other current work topics. Finish with agreement on the next steps to reduce worry and make the necessary changes.
Have an end-of-workday routine
Everyone can benefit from an end-of-workday routine. This daily activity helps you mentally and emotionally transition from work to home, regardless of where you are. Your routine should suit you and your lifestyle, but there are two critical elements to make it successful.
The first step is to wrap up the workday. For example, you might write down one thing you started, one that you progressed, and one that you completed that day. Choose something that will allow you to leave your desk with a sense of accomplishment.
The second step is when you arrive home (or step outside your home office). Do something to help you draw a line under the working day. If you are commuting, it might be listening to your favourite podcast or music. If you are working from home, you might like to meditate, get some exercise, or simply take five minutes to yourself before you join the rest of the household.
Take the time to review the boundaries you have in place for work and decide if there is anything you can change to help you switch off from work at home.
Track your time
If you still find it difficult to stop thinking about work, it might be time to look at your workload and whether you have any time to think while in the office. If you don’t, it’s only natural to do it when you have the time – after work.
Tracking your time for a week will show you if this is a problem. Record your time every day and then reflect on the results. Consider whether you have enough white space during the week and if you spend your time on the work that matters. It is also a great reference when you discuss with your boss what can be done.
Thinking about work in the evening and at weekends is ok from time to time and can be beneficial. You might discover a new idea or solution while away from your desk. It becomes a problem when you spend more time thinking about work and impacts your ability to rest, have fun and connect with others.
Prioritise making the changes needed to help you switch off from work and reap the benefits in every area of your life.